WARREN Gatland challenged his Wales players to give him a World Cup selection headache and they delivered in Argentina, stunning the Pumas 23-10 in San Juan.

The tourists, without their rested Lions, produced a magnificent performance to win the first of two Tests with flanker James Davies and wing George North scoring tries.

If they can avoid defeat in Santa Fe next weekend then it will be a first series win in Argentina since 1999.

After a frustrating performance in victory against South Africa in Washington, Wales produced a peach of a display.

They played smart rugby, stood tall against a powerful Pumas pack and defended with brains and determination.

The tourists took the crowd out of the equation, preventing Argentina from building up a head of steam to get the San Juan crowd roaring.

Cory Hill, captaining his country for the first time, put in a huge performance in the tight five along with his Dragons teammate and hooker Elliot Dee, who is not only establishing himself as Ken Owens’ deputy but putting the heat on the Lion.

Full-back Hallam Amos was composed and a threat with ball in hand, setting up the opener with a glorious offload, and a fourth Rodney Parade player came on for his first cap, 20-year-old flanker Aaron Wainwright becoming an international after only making his professional debut in October.

Gatland will ring the changes again for Santa Fe but his whole squad will get pats on backs with Davies responding to Ellis Jenkins’ great display against the Boks while tighthead Dillon Lewis not only produced the goods at the set piece but was excellent around the park.

Hadleigh Parkes was typically error-free in midfield and Dragons-bound Ross Moriarty put in some telling blows.

Wales won on Argentine soil for the first time since 2004 yet it was the Pumas that went in front through the right boot of Nicolas Sanchez in the second minute when the fly-half punished a breakdown offence.

But Wales were the first to cross with a superb try after a patient attack with Amos conjuring an offload out of the back door to put flanker Davies in down the right wing.

Fly-half Rhys Patchell converted from the touchline and the tourists led 7-3 after eight minutes.

Wales had started well but were under pressure after 17 minutes when the powerful Pumas pack hammered away at their line.

Defence was desperate and a penalty was kicked to the corner before more of the same until back row forward Marcos Kremer was held up over the line by loosehead Rob Evans with the assistance of Hill.

Another offence was kicked to the corner, with referee Andrew Brace issuing captain Hill with a warning, but Wales escaped thanks to excellence over the ball by James Davies, his turnover rewarding a show of character.

Their defensive spirit was followed by attacking excellence to stretch away with a snipe from a lineout by scrum-half Gareth Davies giving wing North a run-in, Patchell’s conversion making it 14-3 after 28 minutes.

Argentine frustration was rising with a terrific break by centre Matias Orlando followed by more strong defence to win a turnover in the 22 thanks to a choke tackle.

The Pumas were bossing possession but had managed just three points as half-time approached.

Wales, meanwhile, were growing in confidence and their performance was reflected on the scoreboard with another Patchell penalty making it 17-3 in the 36th minute.

More fine defence helped make it a dream first half for the tourists, who had stopped their hosts at the driving lineout and protected their line impressively.

Argentina were out early for the second half but it was Wales that started the stronger with Patchell punishing an offside to make it 20-3.

Shaun Edwards would have been purring in the coaches’ box at the way his team were dominating the gainline and yet more strong defence earned another shot at goal for the fly-half but the Scarlet missed the long-range effort.

Wales almost cemented the win in the 70th minute when wing Josh Adams burst through but the Worcester speedster’s offload failed to find the supporting Wainwright.

Argentina felt that they cut the deficit with six minutes remaining but replacement hooker Julian Montoya had crawled along the floor before reaching over the line.

The clock was not the Pumas friend while Wales wanted to give defence coach Edwards a clean sheet.

They couldn’t manage that with replacement back row forward Tomas Lezana powering over from close range with Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias adding the conversion.

But Wales had the final say when another breakdown penalty enabled replacement fly-half Gareth Anscombe to put the final kick between the posts.

Gatland’s side had made the Pumas look ordinary, now they will brace themselves for a backlash and attempt to finish the job.

Argentina: E Boffelli; B Delguy (S Cancelliere 54), M Orlando, J de la Fuente, R Moyano; N Sanchez (S Iglesias 40), G Bertranou (M Landago 47); S Garcia Botta (J Diaz 55-57), A Creevey (captain, J Montoya 65), N Tetaz Chaparro (S Medrano 65), G Petti, T Lavanini (M Alemanno 67), P Matera (T Lezana 46), M Kremer, J Ortega Desio.

Scorers: try – T Lezana; conversion – S Iglesias; penalty – N Sanchez

Wales: H Amos; J Adams, S Williams, H Parkes, G North; R Patchell (G Anscombe 59), G Davies (A Davies 59); R Evans (N Smith 52), E Dee (R Elias 59), D Lewis (T Francis 52), A Beard, C Hill (captain, J Turnbull 67), S Davies (A Wainwright 52), J Davies, R Moriarty.

Scorers: tries – J Davies, G North; conversions – R Patchell (2); penalties – R Patchell (2), G Anscombe

Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland).